Best Welding Electrodes – A Comprehensive List Of The Best Types

Here is my review of the best welding electrodes in 2022.

Electrodes act as a link between two parts. If the link is weak, the parts will break. And that awful sound. “Aw, Snap!” 

So, in this post, I will focus on the links—the welding electrode. 

But I won’t list their features; they are everywhere. Instead, I will describe the benefits the features will bring along. 

And I will describe the practical aspects of working with each electrode.

I am a mechanical engineer with more than 18 years of industrial experience.

I have worked throughout the project lifecycle. I designed pressure vessels and then procured the plates, pipes, and flanges that go into making them. Later, at the fabrication shop, I coordinated the welding procedures. 

Before starting, I wish to make a point. If you ask someone which is the best—Ford, GM, Toyota, and now, Tesla—opinions are bound to differ. It’s the same with electrodes.

In this post, I join (or weld) my experience with research using the correct filler words. Let me know where the joint is weak.

I cover carbon steel, stainless steel, and aluminum electrodes for SMAW.

Let’s start. 

Our Best Welding Electrodes

E6010 welding electrode by Lincoln Electric

E6011 from Hobart Brothers

E6013 from the Hobart Brothers

E7018 from Lincoln Electric

E7018-1 from Lincoln Electric

E7024 from Hobart Brothers

E7014 from Lincoln Electric

E308/308L from Hobart Brothers

E309/309L from Lincoln Electric

316/316L from Lincoln Electric

E4043 Aluminum electrode from Hobart Brothers

  1. E6010 welding electrode by Lincoln Electric.

AWS: E6010

Coating: Cellulosic

Welding position: all

Minimum Tensile strength: 60,000 psi

Polarity: DCEP

Penetration: Deep

Storage: Room temperature (not in the oven)

Reconditioning: Not recommended

Preheating: No

I might as well begin with E6010. 

E6010 is a general-purpose electrode for mild steel. But, its distinguishing quality is deep penetration. 

E6010 works like an off-road vehicle. It’s aggressive. Its forceful characteristic allows it to run over (penetrate) paint, dust, corroded, unclean, or galvanized surfaces. 

What is the AWS standard?

The designation E6010 comes from the AWS (American Welding Society). 

What are these standards, and what do they do? 

Thousands of volunteers work hard and give us one thing in return: safety. Manufacturers know what to make, and we consumers know what to expect. The parties come to a consensus. 

All carbon steel electrodes follow the A5.1—AWS standard for Carbon Steel Electrodes for Shielded Metal Arc Welding.

The unique quality of E6010

Due to its penetrating power, it finds wide applications in filling root pass welds. 

But what causes more penetration in E6010 electrodes?

An organic coating (cellulose) decomposes into hydrogen and other combustion gases. This cellulose is the source of hydrogen in the weld pool and the solidified weld metal.

But doesn’t hydrogen get disapproving looks due to hydrogen-induced cracking? 

With the release of E6010 electrodes, hydrogen got cast in a leading role. Its penetration power brought hydrogen into the spotlight. The guy isn’t that bad, after all.

Another reason why E6010 causes deeper penetration

In DCEP, you connect the electrode to the positive terminal and the base metal to the negative terminal.

The electrode (positive terminal) attracts the electrons (negative charge). 

Electrons carry the heat to the filler wire, melt it, and the heat returns to the joint. The output is deeper penetration.

Since DC flows in only one direction, it causes more heat to flow to the weld joint. 

What about storage, and do E6010 electrodes need an oven?

Cellulose electrodes need moisture to work, and putting them in an oven is a big no-no.

Why is the E6010 electrode a fast-freeze electrode?

During welding, the weld freezes fast, so we call them fast-freeze electrodes.

The weld freezes fast as the low amperage creates a small weld pool, and the thin slag dissipates heat. The slag is light and easy to clean.

Ductility is present in the deposited weld metal. We don’t want it to be hard to prevent cracks. 

Why do I find E6010 in the root pass and E7018 in the fill pass?

We use E7018 to join materials with 70,000 psi tensile strength. 

During welding, we melt and recast steel. The base metal mixes with the filler rod, and the resultant weld metal is hard. 

It can lead to root bead cracking, and to prevent it, use a low-strength electrode (E6010) for the root run. And E7010 or E7018 in fill and cap pass.

Must I root weld with E6010?

Some industries are risk-averse—reluctant to take risks. So was my previous employer. We welded the root pass with TIG and followed the fill pass with SMAW.

Others are ready to take risks. They weld the root and fill passes with E6010. But before that, they have a proper WPS and PQR in place and do it with preheat, joint restraint, etc.

It depends on you. Do you fall in the previous paragraph or the one before it?

Another thing to avoid

E6010 is a fast freeze electrode, and the quick cooling may lead to hydrogen traps while welding fill passes. Weld the fill pass with low hydrogen electrodes. 

Does welding with E6010 need more skill?

Welding root welds with E6010 requires skill as its penetrating power can cause slag inclusions. New welders will have difficulty handling this electrode.

If you need a deep penetration electrode, check out the E6010 welding electrode from Lincoln Electric.

  1. E6011 from Hobart Brothers


AWS: E6011

Coating: Cellulosic

Welding position: all

Minimum Tensile strength: 60,000 psi

Polarity: DCEP, AC

Penetration: Deep

Storage: Room temperature (not in the oven)

Reconditioning: Not recommended

How do E6011 electrodes differ from E6010?

If E6010 was like an off-road vehicle, the E6011 is an off-road hybrid.

When I say hybrid, I mean that apart from Direct current electrode positive (DCEP), you can run it on AC. It is a big difference between E6011 and E6010.

Why does E6011 work on AC?

You can weld E6011 with AC because of the potassium in the coating. 

The alternating current alternates between two extreme values. Moving from positive to negative, it becomes zero midway. 

At this point, the welding arc extinguishes, but potassium—due to its atomic arrangement—keeps the welding arc alive.

In 6010, we could not weld with AC but only DC, and it was due to the presence of sodium in the coating. In DC, the current flow is unidirectional, so the arc is stable. 

Sodium and potassium are arc stabilizers.

What similarities does E6011 have with E6010?

Both E6010 and E6011 are interchangeable if you have DC.

They are suitable for general fabrication.

Since E6010 and E6011 weld in the vertical and overhead positions, they freeze fast. Both E6010 and E6011 belong to a family of fast freeze electrodes.

E6010 and E6011 will deposit a weld with a minimum tensile strength of 60,000 psi. 

And like E6010, E6011 is aggressive. E6011 runs over on dirt, rust, paint, or galvanized (coated with zinc) surfaces. Do you remember the cellulose coating that decomposes into hydrogen?

Other information about Hobart E6011

Hobart E6011 has three prestigious approvals: ABS, CWB, and Lloyds Register.

Refer to the data sheet for more details such as composition, recommended welding techniques, etc.

If you wish to weld with an electrode like E6010 but can weld with AC and DC, try the E6011 from Hobart Brothers.

  1. E6013 from the Hobart Brothers 


AWS: E6013

Coating: rutile

Welding position: all

Minimum Tensile strength: 60,000 psi

Polarity: DCEP, DCEN, AC

Penetration: Shallow to medium


Reconditioning: yes

We learned two important things about E6010: deep penetration and fast freezing. E6013 has neither of these.

Let me begin with the “beginner” rod: E6013. I call it an amateur rod, as beginners find it easy when they first weld.

E6013 finds applications where looks matter: car bodies, furniture, etc.

The industry calls it “sheet metal rod.” E6013 is suitable for welding sheet metal or thin materials.

To weld thin sheets, E6013 must provide shallow to medium penetration.

E6013 can tolerate poor fit-up conditions.

Strength-wise, E6013 is at par with E6010 and E6011: 60,000 psi. In practice, the welding rod deposits material that exceeds this tensile strength. 

And if you observe the welding positions that you can use, E6013 is identical to E6010 and E6011. It is suitable for all-position welding: flat, horizontal, vertical, and overhead. Note the third letter “1” in 6013.

The difference between E6013 and the other two (E6010 and E6011) is in the type of coating, i.e., the fourth letter in E6013.

Type of Coating

The flux coating is rutile, its constituent being titanium dioxide. 

Hydrogen is also present during welding, and you must restrict its use to thin materials. Welding on thick materials may cause hydrogen-induced cracking.


You can use it for AC or DC straight or reverse polarity.

Slag removal is easy, and the spatter is low. 

During welding vertical down fillets, consider them self-cleaning. 

E6013 electrodes use a standard classification system as per AWS

If you want a beginner or sheet metal rod, buy the E6013 from the Hobart Brothers

  1. E7018 from Lincoln Electric


AWS: E7018

Coating: Low hydrogen potassium iron powder

Welding position: all, except vertical down

Minimum Tensile strength: 70,000 psi

Polarity: DCEP, AC

Storage: Use the oven

Reconditioning: yes

Look at power, petrochemical, or shipbuilding, and you will find a WPS with E7018.

If E6013 is famous for thin material welding, then E7018 is versatile with thick material welding. Good quality.

It is the most popular mild-steel low-hydrogen welding electrode. 

The number 8 in E7018 refers to the low-hydrogen coating on the electrode.

E7018 is a fill-freeze electrode. Its characteristics lie between fast freeze and fast-fill electrodes—medium penetration.

The popularity of E7018 electrodes

You can use any power source to weld it: AC, DCEN, DCEP.

It is an all-position electrode. You can keep welding in flat, horizontal, vertical, and overhead positions.

The resulting weld of E7018 will have high tensile strength. The first two letters (70 in E7018) denote the minimum tensile strength in kips, where 1 kip=1000 psi, so 70 kips = 70,000 psi.

Low hydrogen electrodes (also called lo-hi) prevent cracks.

Iron powder in the coating increases the deposition rates. But be careful during out-of-position welding due to the larger weld pool.

Another advantage of E7018 is the inclusion of deoxidizers. Deoxidizers, as the name suggests, remove oxygen by combining it with oxygen. A deoxidizer—manganese—helps weld over dirty surfaces. 

With this electrode, start and stops are easy, and it helps avoid porosity.

Can we root weld with E7018?

Welding root weld with E7018 is not preferable as it is not a fast-freezing electrode. Most likely, a burn-through will happen. The industry uses E6010 for root weld and E7018 for fill pass. Or use E7016 for root pass as it does not have iron in the coating.

Storage of low-hydrogen electrodes 

Low-hydrogen electrodes will lose their charm if the storage is improper. Think of what happens when you leave a bag of cement in a damp place.

As soon as you open the can, expect E7018 to start degrading. To avoid it, use a rod oven. I won’t be able to comment whether it will spoil faster than unrefrigerated milk, but moisture absorption is quick. 

To drive away moisture, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and bake them.

  • After baking, store them in a holding oven.
  • And use dry and clean gloves to handle them after opening. 
  • And keep low-hydrogen electrodes away from the reach of cellulosic electrodes. Manufacturers design cellulosic electrodes with a certain amount of moisture.
  • And use electrodes only if the flux covering is intact.
  • At the site, proper storage is not always possible. Buying electrodes packed in hermetically sealed vacuum packs is a good option. You can store them forever if unopened.

Buy E7018 from Lincoln Electric

They claim their electrodes pick up 60% less moisture than the competition.

  1. E7018-1 from Lincoln Electric


AWS: E7018-1

Coating: iron powder low hydrogen

Welding position: all, except vertical down.

Minimum Tensile strength: 70,000 psi

Polarity: DCEP, AC

Storage: Use the oven

Reconditioning: yes

At first glance, you notice that the difference between E7018-1 and E7018 is the number 1.

“1” after 7018 (e.g., 7018-1) indicates suitability for low-temperature operation. You can use E7018-1 up to -46 degrees C, while E7018 is only usable up to -29 degrees C. 

After the AWS designation, you can also find H4R in the name.

H4 (or H8) on the electrode is the amount of diffusible hydrogen. 

“H4” indicates 4 ml or less diffusible hydrogen, and “R” stands for moisture-resistant.

Lincoln Electric claims its electrodes pick up 50% less moisture than the competition. 

If you are working at low temperatures and need more impact strength, buy the E7018-1 from Lincoln Electric.

  1. E7024 from Hobart Brothers


AWS: E7024

Coating: rutile coating (titania oxide) with iron powder

Welding position: flat and horizontal 

Minimum Tensile strength: 70,000 psi

Polarity: DCEN or AC

Storage: Use the oven

Reconditioning: Yes

Ask anyone to compare SMAW versus MIG speed, and the answer will be MIG.

Show them the E7024 in action, and ask the above question again. Chances are they will hesitate to answer. 

Due to its speed, the E7024 gets the name “rocket” or “jet.”

High iron powder in the coating increases the deposition rates. You can weld faster.

The self-removing slag helps avoid slag entrapment, further aiding productivity.

E7024 electrodes can make fillet welds in flat and horizontal positions and are unsuitable for all-position welding.

If you create large industrial structures, buy the Hobart E7024 and stock them.

How does E7024 differ from E7018-1?

E7024 is not a low hydrogen rod; welds could have hydrogen and crack.

If the drawings or notes show E7018-1, insist on E7018-1 and not E7024. 

E7024 is unsuitable for impact loading; avoid it when seismic loads are present.

  1. E7014 from Lincoln Electric


AWS: E7014

Coating: rutile with iron powder

Welding position: all

Minimum Tensile strength: 70,000 psi

Polarity: DCEP, DCEN, AC

Storage: Use the oven

Reconditioning: Yes

Preheating: No

Both (E7014 and E7024) are non-low-hydrogen type electrodes.

Both contain iron powder to increase the deposition efficiency. 

Iron powder is less in E7014 than in E7024.

E7014 is a mild steel electrode with a rutile coating.

Buy the E7014 from Lincoln Electric

Brief Summary of Carbon Steel Electrodes

  • E6010 and E6011 are high penetration electrodes and solidify fast—the fast-freeze ones.
  • E7024 is the high deposition electrode—the fast-fill one.
  • Between the above two are the moderates or the fill-freeze ones. E6012, E6013, and E7014 have a moderate arc and medium penetration. 
  • E7018 and E7028 are the low-hydrogen ones.

Introduction to Stainless Steel Electrodes

Stainless steels are high alloy steels containing chromium. It becomes stainless when the percentage of chromium is more than 10.5%.

Apart from chromium, nickel increases toughness—crucial in low-temperature operation. 

Various types of stainless steel

If you go to dine out, the chef prepares and serves food in stainless steel cutlery. And if you fall ill after taking food, the medicines will come from a pharma plant that is 100% stainless. 

Wherever cleanliness and durability are mandatory, stainless steel is the ruling monarch.

Below is the family of stainless steel.

  • Austenitic
  • Ferritic 
  • Duplex (mixture of austenitic and ferritic microstructure)
  • Martensitic
  • Precipitation Hardened

So we focus on the austenitic, the heir apparent of the stainless steel kingdom.

We know that electrode selection can be difficult. So the accepted rule is to select a filler metal that matches the base metal.

Refer to A5.4—Specification for Stainless Steel Electrodes for Shielded Metal Arc Welding.

Note the AWS classification for stainless steel electrodes differs from carbon steel. 

Why do we reduce carbide precipitation in stainless steel? 


Why do we use “L” grades of stainless steel?

Stainless steel electrodes get their corrosion resistance from chromium. 

Between 400 to 800 degrees C, the chromium precipitates out at the grain boundaries and forms chromium carbide. 

The principal element for providing corrosion resistance (chromium) is less. 

To prevent carbide precipitation, reduce the carbon content of the steel. 

The carbon content in L grade is less than 0.04% to avoid intergranular corrosion. 

Welding positions on Stainless Steel Electrodes

Here’s a piece of information that you need to know. 

Stainless steel welding electrode designation is different from others. You will see three numbers like 15, 16, or 17 after EXXX, where XXX stands for 308, 309, or any other steel.

15, 16, or 17 are the usability designations in Stainless Steel Electrodes. You will find them after the AWS number that begins with EXXX.

They denote the welding position and the type of coating. 15, 16, or 17 are the three variants. 

Let’s start with Exxx-17. It has more silicon that gives more fluidity to the weld pool. Restrict it to flat and horizontal.

Exxx-16 contains less silicon, and hence its weld pool is less fluid. You can weld in all positions, except vertical down.

Finally, Exxx-15 is suitable for welding in all positions.

15 number denotes a lime coating. Both steelmaking and welding are similar. Lime removes impurities from the steel as it does in steelmaking.

16 and 17 are rutile coatings that contain titanium oxide.

With this information, we come across our first electrode for stainless steel.

  1. E308/308L from Hobart Brothers


AWS: E308/308L

Welding position: all, except vertical down

Polarity: DCEP or AC

Storage-Use the oven for critical applications. Refer to the manufacturer guidelines

Reconditioning: Yes

E308/308L from Hobart is my all-time champ. Using it, weld type 302, 304, and 304L stainless steel.

Dual certification meets the requirements of both 308 and 308L. 

An E308 electrode can have 0.08% carbon (maximum). 

E308L is a low-carbon grade with 0.04% carbon (maximum). 

Tensile strength is around 80,000 psi.

Spray-type metal transfer reduces spatter.

It is an all-position electrode. You can use it in flat, horizontal, vertical (up), and overhead positions, but avoid vertical down.

You can use Direct Current Electrode Positive (DCEP) or AC. 

Starting and stopping are easy.

For critical applications, use an oven. 

If you expose them to the atmosphere for an extended period, recondition them.

Do not substitute E308 / E308L stainless steel electrodes with E308 / E308H. 

“H” is for high-temperature operation. We need more carbon content to perform at elevated temperatures.

Buy Hobart Brothers E308/308L electrode.

  1. E309/309L from Lincoln Electric


AWS: E309/309L

Welding position: all, except vertical down

Polarity: DCEP or AC

Storage-Use the oven for critical applications. Refer to the manufacturer guidelines.

Reconditioning: Yes

As per me, this dual-certified (309/309L) Lincoln Excalibur is the reigning champ of the arena.

E309/309L is technology’s gift for joining dissimilar metals. Our company welders joined stainless steel to carbon steel using E309/309L.

The way E309 works is that the weld creates a barrier between the two dissimilar metals.

After welding, the slag is self-peeling and is easy to remove. 

You see a smooth bead appearance on the weld. 

Do you wish to use an electrode that acts as a bridge between two different materials? Buy the E309/309L from Lincoln Electric.

  1. 316/316L from Lincoln Electric


AWS: E316/316L

Polarity: DCEP or AC

Storage-Use the oven for critical applications. Refer to the manufacturer guidelines.

Reconditioning: Yes

History of 316 development

304 fails in places of extreme corrosion. But by adding 2-3% molybdenum to 304, a unique thing happens. The steel develops resistance to pitting and crevice corrosion.

The resultant steel is 316 stainless steel.

Again, “L” after 316 stands for the low carbon content to avoid carbide precipitation.

Features of E316/316L 

You will like the easy start and stop of E316/316L. Porosity reduces due to this.

You can use the smooth-running arc of this electrode to weld 316, 316L, and 318 grades.

After welding, the slag is easy to detach, so you get fewer slag inclusions.

And be careful in its upkeep. 

Store these electrodes away from carbon steel to avoid carbon pickup. It can also happen if you use the same carbon steel wire brushes for cleaning stainless steel welds.

Need stainless steel that surpasses 304 in corrosion resistance; do have a look at the Lincoln Electric Excalibur® 316/316L-16.

  1. E4043 Aluminum electrode from Hobart Brothers

AWS: E4043

Tensile strength: 14000 psi

Welding Current- DCEP (Electrode Positive)

Welding Positions: Flat, Horizontal 

Aluminum melts with ease. It has a melting point of approximately half that of steel, but it expands more on heating. 

Despite these practical difficulties, people fall for its good looks and corrosion resistance. To work with aluminum, you must use E4043—a general-purpose aluminum electrode.

The electrode coating can pick up moisture. The electrodes must be dry and redried if required.

The arc is stable with less spatter. The resultant welds are strong, and porosity is not present.

You can use this product for stick welding aluminum or brazing. Rods come by weight. 

Use dcep, as it will not work with ac. 

A larger thickness will need preheating. Low-thickness sheets can lead to burn-through.

The AWS specification is A5.3—Specification for Aluminum and Aluminum-Alloy Electrodes for SMAW.

If you wish to create something good-looking, buy the E4043 Aluminum electrode from Hobart Brothers.

Closing Thoughts

A well-designed product can fail if the electrode selection is wrong. Electrodes are a meeting point for two parts.

My engineering manager told me, “Problems happen at a point where two parts meet, at the interfaces.” 

Choose your electrodes with caution so that the link doesn’t break. “Aw, Snap!”



Mechanical Project engineer (M Eng., C Eng.) with 8 years’ experience in the EPC industry (oil/gas/chemicals) and another 8 years experience as a mechanical chartered Engineer. Authored six books on project management, piping, and pressure vessels. Former member of American society of Mechanical engineers, pressure vessels and piping division. Acted briefly as a welding coordinator.